Reno Declines Neighbor’s Help; Minnesota’s Mystery Trains

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Our daily State & Local news roundup for Wednesday, September 24, 2014 ...

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota: What’s being transported on trains heading through the Twin Cities and along Minnesota’s freight rail lines? In some cases, it’s a mystery. Train crews don’t even know. Dan Gunderson of Minnesota Public Radio reports that federal inspectors found that one in five freight train manifests in Minnesota contain “inaccurate information about cars hauling hazardous materials,” according to Federal Railroad Administration documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

RENO, Nevada: Thanks but no thanks. Officials in the “Biggest Little City in the World” have turned down an offer of free automatic aid from fire officials in Washoe County to help provide fire coverage in parts of Reno impacted by the closure of three local fire stations, Anjeanette Damon reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal. "Reliance on high levels of automatic aid by an agency serves to indicate that the agency's resources are not properly located to effectively respond to all of the agency's service areas," Reno’s fire chief wrote in a staff report.

ATLANTA, Georgia: A Seventh Day Adventist preacher has filed a federal complaint against the Georgia state government alleging that Public Health Department rescinded a job offer after agency officials learned of his religious beliefs, according to Aaron Gould Sheinin of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Recorded sermons posted online show preacher Eric Walsh saying that “homosexuality is a sin and evolution is a ‘religion created by Satan,’” the newspaper reported. Health officials deny that the job offer was rescinded because of Walsh’s beliefs.

RAMAPO, New York: Local officials in this Rockland County town about 30 miles outside New York City have asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate a proposal to expand the town board from four members to six members and change representation from at-large to ward-based seats. As Akiko Matsuda of the Journal-News reports, there are concerns that minority representation could be undermined by the shift in board representation, including from the Orthodox Jewish community, which says that the proposal has the “unstated goal of the referendum is to weaken the political influence of Orthodox Jews in the town.” Others say the ward plan would better represent all local residents.

LIVONIA, Michigan: In Detroit’s western suburbs, newly posted highly signs along the recently reconstructed Interstate 96 have revealed a longstanding mistake about the proper spelling of “Middle Belt Road,” Marian Walker reports for the Detroit Free Press. For years, highway signs have marked Exit 179 as “Middlebelt Road,” which is how many local governments spell the road on signs. But officially, Wayne County refers to the road as “Middle Belt,” even if that’s not actually reflected on local signs. The state says it followed Wayne County’s official name for the roadway and has no idea if local jurisdictions will follow their lead on the two-word spelling.

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